04 December 2006

Penguins dunking to extremes

Emperor penguins can dive to 600m for 20 minutes & do many other things with implications for sciences like anaesthesia, like marching 160km through icy conditions before diving into ice-slush for 20 minutes.

Without getting “the bends”, which even the great whales get.

Aside from little tricks like more myoglobin, which helps muslces to store oxygen, physiologists are trying to untangle the penguin’s diving advanatges so that they can be applied to humans. Amongst other things, penguins can get by with very little oxygen, where people would black out.

There are many situations where an ability to get along under pressure or with limited air can be important.

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